When I was in my 20s (I'm 37 now), my bipolar depression got so severe that the docs decided it was time to try ECT, Electroconvulsive Therapy. In the old days, they called it “shock therapy”. The premise is sound: if you cause a 10-60 second seizure in the brain, in at least 10 consecutive treatments, certain biochemicals “right” themselves and those suffering from extreme depression feel better. There is still a cloud of mystery surrounding why the treatment works, but I was willing to try anything.
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Two years ago there was one thing above all in the mental health world that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and it was electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Not the thought of the procedure itself, but the side effects.
In my last blog post ‘My Experience with Psychotic Depression: Part 1’, I wrote about how I became suicidally depressed and psychotic, which lead to a hospitalisation. In this post I will write about the changing point of my depression and how I got better.
Quite a while ago I was told that during spring and summer I would most likely be controlling underlying mania and during winter I would be fighting depression. This is because medication doesn’t work very well for me, my moods are very seasonal and I have the type of bipolar that would make me constantly unwell if I didn’t control it. This is something I still think a lot about.
I think as a blogger it’s important to touch upon a lot of different topics. It’s also important to know the audience you’re writing for, and I’m finding this topic of ECT being discussed a lot within the mental health community online groups. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses.
Dr. Descartes Li is a Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco. He is the co-Director of the UCSF Electroconvulsive Therapy Service as well as the Director of the UCSF Bipolar Program. His work involves teaching both UCSF Psychiatry residents as well as UCSF medical students. He has been in clinical practice since 1997 and also speaks Mandarin Chinese.
I have Bipolar Disorder 1 with medication resistant depression. At one point, I was taking up to five different medications just to control my Bipolar Disorder. It was horrible. I’d take a medication for a few months, then have to have the dosage increased or even worse, have the entire medication changed as my body rejected it. In the mean time, the depressive episodes would make my life miserable. My most recent episode in March put me in the hospital for ten days. It was there that my doctors determined that I was a good candidate for ECT treatments.